tv Tavis Smiley PBS October 21, 2014 12:00am-12:31am PDT
from los angeles, i'm tavis smiley. tonight a conversation with kristen stewart who put the "twilight" saga in her rear-view mirror. she's getting acclaim and push back for "camp x-ray" in which she plays a young mp assigned to gitmo whose interactions with the detainee prompts her to rethink her political views. we are glad you joined us for a conversation with kristen stewart. coming up right now.
and by contributions to your pbs station from viewersz like you. thank you. >> kristen stewart has been acting since"< she was 9. her first was in "panic room" with jodie foster. she's a worldwide phenomenon for her role as bella/x in the "twilight" saga. she's gotten independent films off the ground. she has three films getting acclaim on the festival circuit. including upcoming movies with julie anne moore and julie
juliet binoche. in "camp x-ray" she is an mp involved with a detainee. available now on vod. >> 471, the detainee. you two are friends. >> no, sir. >> you're not friendly with him? >> thors. >> you don't talk to him? >> we have spoken. i am --r9 not -- i -- like i s in my report -- >> i have read your report. i know what it says. i also know what the corporal says about it. what i don't know and will probably never know is what's really going on here. >> i want to start by going inside your head. the clip comes up. we both turn our head.
i'm staring and you looked away. what were you seeing that you didn't want to see? >> um, it's difficult to take any scene out of context for me obviously, just looking at especially that moment when she's so tongue-tied. >> right. >> i feel for that moment. i remember it so clearly. the director told me to toss the lines and try to maneuver this in the best way that i learned to address an officer. just deal with the situation. so, yeah, a lot of times standard operating procedure doesn't always catch you. it's like uh, there are thoughts i cannot -- communicate based on your standard way of communicating. do you know what i mean? i can't talk soldier right now. that happens to people. >> that means you're a great actress. that was supposeded to happen. she's being put on the spot. she's trying@e to navigate her y through the situation and answer a question.
>> yes. >> she's definitely fallen into something that's hard to categorize and, you know, probably harboring some guilt. she really all beyond anything, wants to be a good soldier. she doesn't have clear answers for him yet feels she's doing her job to the best of her ability. what she sees as injustice she can't communicate. it becomes so much bigger than her. she's a small town girl that's just not equipped at this point to be dealing with that stuff. >> we jump so fast because of the clip. back that thing up. tell us what it's about.j we jumped to the scene out of context. without giving the story line away tell us what the film is about and the character you play. >> awesome. i play a girl named amy cole that joins the military wanting
to do something greater than herself. sort of as -- wants to be saved by something. she's lost. she doesn't necessarily want to address some of the demons she's got and figures by joining the army, it takes the individual aspect out of her life. she doesn't have to consider herself as one person. she can be part of a whole and do something good -- essentially good. but she's stationed in guantanamo bay. she finds that the job is -- you know -- basically just like straight to the point. she befriends a detainee. all of these mantras people say to keep h%9 like 9/11, they're the bad guys, this is really the only way to deal with them and treat them.
they start to not really feel so easy coming out of her mouth. you know, she just finds that getting to know this man and seeing that you can take two people that couldn't be further apart in every sense of the word. it's like their background is different. their political up bringing is different. their religious up bringing. culturally on different sides of the planet. yet they find this through line and sort of see that this forced polarization that's happening isn't something their hearts can get behind. they feel like they are both betraying their side in some way when they are just opening their hearts to, you know, the nature of being human and the fact that things aren't that clear sometimes. >> to me, the film -- i guess any good project ultimately gets to that point for those of us who are film buffs.
but you've got to get to the humanity of the character. this is about respecting and maybe reveling in the humanity of another person. what made it fascinating for me is you come to the point of respecting and reveli# in humanity. it starts with him doing something funky, something foul. you have to get past that first. >> absolutely. he says it clearly. we are at war. >> yeah. it's not an easy friendship. it makes it impactful in the end. her very desire to be able to view him as an animal. all she wants, it would make her job easier. it would be so much easier toh1 look at the bars that separate them and see them as definite differences. yet those don't always pull
through. somebody that wanted a clear answer that found something complex. couldn't stomach it. >> is this what's exciting you and turning you on with regard to the roles you choose, complexity of character? i suspect every actor wants something complex. but this character is complex. i appreciated the fact that i said it before. just that you can see girls like that walking around. girls with with this chip on their shoulder because of who knows what happened in their up bringing. there is something inside them they can't acknowledge. so i just wanted the to play somebody who could have gone to high school with any one of us. it's such an essentially american story. like, you know, just a girl that
aspires to think a little bit deeper.oh and the challenges that come oh with that basically. i thought it was a perfectly timed and personal story. >> what do you mean by that? >> just like in this. it's difficult for our generation to own any -- we don't challenge a lot.d we don't think -- it's not to make generalizations. we are not the ones protesting. the most outspoken. and so i thought it was cool to find somebody who really did shy away from thinking big picture. sort of have it shoved in her face and undeniably stood up to her own feelings, thoughts. especially in such a heightened,
you know, environment. and situation. >> how did you go about researching. how do you prepare to play a role like this beyond klsu)jt people who were something like the character? >> right. she just felt familiar to me in this way that i could identify a few people and just draw from knowing them. pete satler and i workeded. we had a bit of time to think about her foundation and what led her to this place. it's weird to the talk about. it's very personal. you assign back stories to people. how much do i say about her? we exchanged a ton of reference material. there is information about the technical aspects being at gitmo. and also just emotionally like
exchanged -- he calls them word clouds because he's trying to make me feel better about owning my poetry. we would write what was it like for her in high school. what was the first dance like? the first first kiss like. what's her relationship with her father? what's she running from, trying to find. where is her ambition? why is she struggling with it so much and what is her self worth. why is she trying to erase herself and put on a uniform to forget she's a person? all of that.dd >> when you decide to work with with the director of the film who has done stuff before. this is like a major breakout as i see his work. a major break out piece for him. >> definitely. >> i'm glad you agree. >> he's definitely -- he jumped in. acknowledge
that. i was thinking to ask and so i will. when you have -- even though you are young, you have established yourself as an actress in this town who can open a film, make money and all of that good stuff. how do you make that decision to put your life -- and that's an over statement. put your life, your career in the hands of a first timer, a novice really, with all due respect to mr. sandler. >> absolutely. i think i'm a feeler. >> i like that. i'm a feeler. >> a feeler. like little an tennae. >> i like that. >> i i'm not restricted by being too pragmatic. i don't need -- a lot of actors, especially ones in supreme positions to make choices, as i
am lucky enough to do are concerned about every element being spot-on perfect. to fit into an equation for success. it's also just the experience of it. it takes a lot. may sound silly. you don't have to give so much of yourself. it is taxing to tell the story that's, you know, important to you. so when you don't come out of the other side feeling like taken care of and there was -- we were supporting characters in a story that were so much greater than us. it feels awful. it's a horrible experience. usually you don't wind up with a good film either. as an actor for me, it's alsowj very muchrb
even if he didn't do a good job in the movie, who knows how the movie really is? it's so subjective anyway. if it turned out absolute, just bosh i still would have -- mean? >> yeah. >> for me, i'm not so precious about the mark i'm going to leave on my industry. make a few bad movies. it's worth sifting through the work. drawing from that experience what attracted you to it in the first place. >> i can see and hear in that response a certain sort of freedom and liberation that many actors don't have. because, to your point, everything -- they try to calculate everything. >> oh, yeah. >> the flip side of the argument, kristen, you talk about take thing risk. i love people willing to take risk. even risk, particularly at your level in the industry, has to be calculated risk. you must have calculated that you thought you could pull this
off. >> oh, yeah. i never go into something -- i'm always thinking we'll make the most brilliant movie ever made. if you don't have that feeling going into it then i just can't relate to that. you know, it's silly. you have to feel like especially considering we are talking about making movies. taken out of context it can sound ridiculous to someone not involved in it. if you are not thinking you are doing the mostr important thing then it just feels like you're making products to sell. you're not doing it for the right reasons. >> yeah. when you do a film that's set in gitmo in 2014 in this country it raises all sorts of -- i love to chuckle. raises serious questions that people might have about the film. it opens up conversation that people might have about the issue of humanity, how x people at gitmo, et cetera. are you prepared for that conversation that may come as a result of the film? >> yeah, absolutely.
>> you welcome that? >> yeah, of course. you know, it's coincidentally timed. we are lucky that it's like coming out in the time that it is -- that it was made in a time it was able to find its way, allowed to be. you know, thanks for mentioning that it is -- it's strange because it is a political subject. it's so revolving around, like, the fact that there are people involved that it's easy -- so far away it's easy to forget there are people walk uhhing the line now. there are people in the cells. it's cool that it's being brought back up again. not to sound so self-important. but this movie was an exciting prospect because it was a bit of a reminder. it was an opportunity to explore characters in this interesting place.d:
so, yeah. like we have all said, it's tricky to release a gitmo movie at a time like this this. we are not claiming to have the answers. i would be on the phone now. like i've got the solution. >> you call obama. >> i've got it, buddy. i figured it out. >> when i saw it, i immediately thought about that. i wondered -- i have never known you to be overtly political. you may be and i don't know it. i'm thinking this is an interesting choice for her. )jz and question which is a good thing, given my own political point of view on this. it's a good thing to have the conversation about whether or not we'll be who we say we are in the world. the point is when you look at a film like this, one thinks -- certainly i thought looking at it. i'm thinking, i wonder how and
you made this point. how many military personnel are in situations like this every day where they literally -- this is a film. this is entertainment. people have to make choices every day about how to engage, relate, respect and not contest the mu humanity of people behind bars and not see themselves as betterz than. that's a gitmo question. but it's a question writ large about the prison industrial complex and how those in authority relate to and treat or decide to maltreat persons behind bars. that's a big question. >> it is. well asked. >> anyway, moving on. i asked earlier how we are making choices about the roles you want to play. how you are making choices about how you want to put the name and company stamp on. i think it's my assessment. it's my assessment as a fan that
you are doing a good job balancing out the block buster big budget stuff with indy stuff. how you're making that work. >> i'm really just sliding through. >> you're being modest. >> i'm telling you. >> you are making deliberate choices. you're making smart choices. not just sliding thrg3çjr @&h(l& >> yeah. i'm very instinctual. i haven't done an overtly commercial movie in a while. i haven't done a big movie in a while. i have made seven movies in the last two years that are all fairly small. >> why? >> a few of which could be considered commercial. a few have a chance to be bigger. >> why that choice over the last few years? >> it's project by project.
it's funny. i hate harping on this. my favorite question is the roles for women compared to men in the industry are less interesting and full and rounded.;x the good roles stick out so it's never hard to make a decision. the movie is so clear to me. i have worked with great people. the ones not like what you see constantly stick out so clearly that's what i can do or try to do. >> if you put a percentage on the stuff across your desk that's the same old same old out, how would you handicap
that? ñ >> i would love to know. i would ask my agent the same question. i read less of the stuff that's obviously not. you know, good material. >> it's different for every person. i will read scripts that are fantastic. but it's not in me at the time. some actors are really -- revel in the fact that they can transform themselves and step outside of themselves. i feel very much like my job does the opposite. it puts me somewhere where i can reveal myself so when a character introduces me to an aspect of myself that i was less aware of, it's sort of so -- i affects me so greatly like, oh,
wow. that's it. i'm always trying to, you know find the truth of it all. >> i'm transfixed because i have never thought about it in the way you just flipped it. as i think about the way you described it there is a certain -- my word -- courage in being willing to be that trance parent. if you will do what you said which is to take on characters that awill youed you to expose and reveal part of yourself, over time we'll see more and more of you come through the characters you play. we'll see all of oh you. completely transparent. it may be why people want to find role that is allow them to step outside of themselves. they have the right to self-determination. they don't want to be exposed in that way. i guess you are comfortable with that, or getting comfortable with it.
>> i have been comfortable in my work. what's up there is -- i'm not denying the fact that i play characters and i can put myself in a different situation and sort of be someone drelse. i love exploring things outside my realm. it's psychotic to claim you can be something other than who you are based on every experience that led you to this point. >> the most transformative and profound work that i have done, not the result, but just in the experience of doing the work ha8 always been the stuff that feels scary because it feels real. feels like i have put my finger on. gosh, have you guys done this? you know, this is real for me. that's the kind of work i get off on most.
who knows? i love being an actor and i love film in general. there could be the one day i'll play, you know, like -- i don't know. like a penguin or something. really wow everyone. step outside myself. >> i'm sure if you played a penguin you would wow us. speaking of stuff we haven't seen coming out, we have "camp x-ray." i love the title. when you see the film, i'm curious what you will take "camp x-ray" to mean. it has multiple meanings for me on a film like this. that's for another time. >> very meta. >> i love the title. i mentioned juliet binoche. >> yes. that's "clouds of sils maria." and then "still alice." a movie with jesse eisenberg
called "american ultra." that was fun. it's funny and an ultra violent broad comedy. he's amazing. >> sounds fun. >> yes. >> ultra violent comedy. that sounds fun. i think the point is you will be seeing a lot of ms. stewart in the coming months and years. i love seeing you onóe screen. the new one is "camp x-ray." kristen, always happy to see you here. thanks for coming to see us. >> thanks for having me. >> that's the show tonight. thanks for watching and keep the faith. >> for more information on today's çñshow, visit tavis smiy at pbs.org. >> hi. i'm tavis smiley, join me next time for a conversation about latinos in the midterm elections and marty stuart. see you then. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com